1969 Porsche 917LH Pilots: G. Larrousse, W. Kauhsen Team: Porsche System / Martini Race: 2nd overall (S 5.0 class) at Le Mans in 1970 Minichamps - 400706103 (diecast)
Porsche 917LH #12 (06/17/18):
In 1968 the Commission Sportive Internationale (the competition arm of the FIA) decreed a rule change. From 1969 to 1971 to compete in the sport category of the International Championship of Makes (later the World Sportscar Championship) manufacturers needed only 25 cars instead of the previously mandatory 50 cars for homologation. That was the push Porsche needed to start the development of a Le Mans winner. Based on their current 908, in 10 months the first 917 was ready. The engineering department at Stuttgart simultaneously developed two cars, the 917K (“Kurzheck”) and the 917LH (“Langheck”). The later was specifically for Le Mans. To power the brand’s new hope for their first victory at La Sarthe, an all-new engine was necessary. And that was the groundbreaking Type 912. It was a 4494 cm³ flat-12 (180º V-12, not a boxer) with DOHC and 24 valves.
With the poor results of the 917 in 1969, Porsche established a partnership with John Weyer and his JWA Gulf. JWA had the mission to figure out what was wrong with the car. And John Horsman, chief engineer at JWA, did find out what was wrong. Simply put, the issue with the car was only poor aerodynamics. And with that corrected, finally the time had come for an overall win at La Sarthe. To maximize their winning chances that year, Porsche had JWA Gulf and two more teams with full factory support: Martini Racing and Porsche Salzburg. All in all there were seven 917s lined up for the 24 Heures du Mans of 1970, five 917K and two 917LH. Martini Racing had only one car in the race, the 917LH #3, and was able to score a 2nd place, just 5 laps behind the winning 917K #23.
Despite the fantastic result, the car’s claim to fame was really the paint scheme. In essence it was the first “art car” to race at Le Mans. Martini wanted to make their car stand out, so they asked Anatole Lapine, Porsche’s newly hired designer, to decorate it. Using the factory-white chassis #917-043 as the elected canvas, the job took place on the week preceding the race. About 1500 cans of spray paint later, the Hippie Porsche was ready. Work of art or not, when Ferdinand Piëch, father of the 917 project, saw the result he was not happy. His remark was “You know, a race car just has to be white”.
But if I may be so bold, I beg to differ from Mr. Piëch. Because I think the Hippie is snazzy 🙂
PS: This Minichamps came as a substitute for my previous CMR model. However, as you can see here, I’m not 100% sure it was an upgrade…